Syncope In Children
What is syncope?
Syncope, also called fainting, is a sudden loss of consciousness from a decrease in blood flow and oxygen to the brain.
What causes syncope?
- Reflex reaction: This is the most common cause of syncope in children. Syncope may occur when your child coughs, sneezes, strains during a bowel movement, or urinates. It can also happen when he is faced with a stressful or fearful situation.
- Changes in body position: Changes in position may cause a rapid drop in your child's blood pressure. An example is when your child stands up quickly.
- Cardiovascular problems: Heart disease or problems with the blood vessels of the brain may decrease blood flow to the brain.
What are the signs and symptoms of syncope?
- Loss of consciousness
- Pale, cold, clammy, or sweaty skin
- Fast breathing and a racing, pounding heartbeat
- Nausea or vomiting
- Lightheadedness, dizziness, or a headache
- Fatigue or weakness
How is syncope diagnosed?
Your child's caregiver will ask about your child's symptoms and when they started. He may ask what triggers your child's syncope. Your child may need any of the following tests:
- Blood tests: Your child may need blood taken to help find the cause of his syncope.
- ECG: This test records a short period of electrical activity in your child's heart. An ECG is done to check for heart damage or problems.
- EEG: This test is also called an electroencephalogram. Many small pads or flat, metal buttons are put on your child's head. Each pad has a wire that is hooked to a machine. This machine records a tracing of brain wave activity from different parts of your child's brain. Caregivers look at the tracing to see how your child's brain is working.
- Echocardiogram: This test is also called an echo. Sound waves are used to show pictures of the size and shape of your child's heart. The echo can also show how well the heart is pumping and how well blood flows through it. Your child will lie down during the test. Caregivers will squirt clear gel onto your child's chest to help the echo probe move easily. The echo pictures are shown on a TV-like screen. The whooshing noise that you may hear is the sound of blood flowing through the heart. Caregivers may ask you to stay in the room with your child during this test.
- Tilt table test: If your child is having problems with fainting, he may need a tilt table test. This test checks your child's blood pressure when he changes positions.
How is syncope treated?
Your child does not need medicine or other treatments for his syncope. The symptoms will go away on their own when blood flow returns to normal. He may need any of the following medicines to prevent syncope from happening again:
- Blood pressure medicines: These can help your child's heart pump strongly and regularly.
- Steroid medicines: This medicine helps your child's body balance fluids and salts. This will help prevent his blood pressure from dropping too low and causing syncope.
How can I help my child prevent syncope?
- Sit or lie down quickly: Have your child sit and bend over to put his head between his knees, or lie down if he feels lightheaded or dizzy. This helps to increase blood flow to his heart and brain.
- Change position carefully: Remind your child to change positions slowly. Teach him to take deep breaths before he sits or stands up. He may need to move his legs frequently if he sits or stands for long periods of time.
- Encourage liquids: Encourage your child to drink liquids throughout the day to help keep his blood pressure up. Ask your child's caregiver how much liquid your child should drink each day. He may need 8 to 10 cups (8 ounces each) of liquid each day. Ask which liquids are best for your child.
- Avoid triggers: Learn what causes syncope in your child and work with him to avoid them.
What are the risks of syncope in children?
Syncope may be a warning sign that your child has other health problems. Syncope caused by heart or brain problems is often serious and may be life-threatening.
When should I contact my child's caregiver?
Contact your child's caregiver if:
- Your child faints again.
- Your child complains of headache, has a fast heartbeat, or feels too dizzy to stand up.
- You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.
When should I seek immediate care?
Seek care immediately or call 911 if:
- Your child loses consciousness and does not wake up.
- Your child has a seizure.
- Your child complains of chest pain and has trouble breathing.
- Your child faints, hits his head, and is bleeding.
- Your child faints when he exercises.
- Your child faints more than once.
You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.